Who's got the cash?

January 14, 2005

A cross-disciplinary team of researchers at Southampton University can look forward to booking an extra holiday after a ten-year industrial collaboration resulted in a licensing agreement.

The deal will bring each team member a projected bonus of several thousand pounds in royalties over its five-year term.

The team, led by marine geophysicist Jon Bull, developed the GeoChirp 3D, which it has licensed to GeoAcoustics, a manufacturer of seabed survey equipment.

It is the first device to be able to create a three-dimensional image of the sub-seabed, and GeoAcoustics hopes to sell about ten GeoChirp 3Ds at about $300,000 (£160,000) each.

The five-year licensing agreement includes a £190,000 investment by GeoAcoustics.

Justin Dix, one of the lead researchers, said the money would allow the team to take the device to the commercial prototype stage. "The other thing we get is a fully functioning piece of kit that we can go out and do good science with," Dr Dix said. "That is our primary motive."

The original research, which was sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Research Council, the Ministry of Defence and GeoAcoustics, was not intended to create a commercial product.

"Normally, we buy (kit) off the shelf. But there wasn't a device that did what we wanted," he said.

Over the past 12 months, it became obvious that what they had developed had commercial value. "It's nice to have produced something that isn't just a refereed paper. Here we have a tangible thing," Dr Dix said.

The device could be useful across a range of industries, as well as having military and archeological applications.

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